The Conservatives will abolish the newly-formed Independent Planning Commission (IPC), but not right away, should they win the coming General Election.
In his fullest-yet presentation of Tory planning policy, shadow planning minister Bob Neill said the IPC, set up to streamline the planning process, was “fundamentally wrong”.
The government launched the IPC last month. Chaired by Sir Michael Pitt it is intended to cut the planning process for projects of national importance to a year.
Decisions made by the IPC will be based on policy set down in National Policy Statements (NPS). Six energy statements and one ports statement have already been published for consultation. However, the Conservatives have been critical of the IPC, describing it as an “unelected quango”.
“We would abolish the IPC. It is fundamentally wrong.”
Shadow planning minister Bob Neill
“We would abolish the IPC. It is fundamentally wrong,” said Neill. “The objections we have are not to the NPS, which are right and sensible. We want to speedup the passage of large infrastructure, which is glacially slow.”
Neill said the Conservatives would use parliament to give the statements more legitimacy. “We would give each NPS a substantive vote in parliament, so people know this is a proper democratic sign-off. This gives legitimacy and makes it harder to challenge through judicial review.
“The IPC is not accountable, neither elected nor part of the judiciary − it is neither flesh nor fowl − and cannot be the final arbiter for issues such as new nuclear power.”
Three month limit
Neill said that the Conservatives would maintain the status quo while passing primary legislation to dismantle the IPC to ensure no additional delays are brought into pending applications. “We do not want to dislocate those projects in the pipeline,” he said. This is expected to take two years.
During that time the Conservatives would make the IPC report to the appropriate secretary of state and set a time limit of three months for decisions.
“We would impose a time limit of three months which seems right,” he said. “Nobody who has submitted an application should have to re-apply. We do not want to see delay.”
Neill said a green paper to flesh out Tory plans would be published around Christmas.